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Cole Statement on House Passage of H.R. 6800

May 15, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after he voted against H.R. 6800, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this evening.

“Crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever, the so-called HEROES Act is mostly a liberal wish list but deceptively packaged by Speaker Pelosi as coronavirus relief and with a price tag of more than $3 trillion. After working across party lines in both chambers to deliver four substantial relief packages to the American people over the last several weeks, I am disappointed that House Democrats chose to abandon that same spirit of bipartisan cooperation and instead waste time considering legislation that will never see the light of the day in the Senate or make it to the president’s desk.

“Now is not the time for making political points. More than ever, Americans need to see their elected representatives working together to solve the urgent problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am hopeful that is still possible in the days ahead. Americans deserve better from their government.” 

During debate on the House floor earlier today, Cole also made the following remarks in opposition to H.R. 6800. 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 6800. Not only is the bill premature, it was crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input at all.

The pandemic we currently face is unlike anything we’ve experienced in modern history, and so too has been our response. I am pleased with how the Congress has worked together – and quickly – to provide urgent aid to those on the front lines and those struggling with the economic impacts of this disastrous scourge. Every bill that has been enacted up to this point was ultimately the product of cooperation and bipartisan support. And each of those bills passed this floor with essentially no partisan division at all.

So it is very disappointing to come before you today, Mr. Speaker, on this one-sided bill that is loaded with provisions unrelated to the crisis that we face. This is not in the spirit of cooperation that the American people expect from their leaders during difficult times.

Indeed, the bill before us today has three trillion dollars in spending – we think, we don’t know, we don’t have a CBO score yet – nearly ten thousand dollars for every person in the United States. The one-and-a-half trillion dollars of discretionary funding provided in this bill is more than is typically appropriated in an entire fiscal year.

This includes almost a trillion dollars in new funding for states, cities and counties – on top of roughly a trillion dollars we have already provided over the last two months. These new dollars are made available without any safeguards against funds going to jurisdictions that had financial problems long before the crisis and are unrelated to the crisis.

The bill gives the U.S. Postal Service a twenty-five billion dollar windfall without requiring any reforms to their operations, and it bails out multi-employer pension plans. There are also sweeping changes to our election system, requiring same-day voter registration and nationwide vote-by-mail. This is an incredible federal intrusion into the election system that is operated not by the federal government but by the states. I am concerned with this path, Mr. Speaker – it leads us in the wrong direction. There is no reason for us to be here on the floor of the House to be debating this partisan wish list.

I know what can come from members working across the aisle together. I’ve done it on many occasions with my friend, the distinguished Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

It is what led to the creation of the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Fund that allowed the Trump Administration to respond immediately to the emerging threat from the new coronavirus as we worked to understand where resources were needed. I was proud to work with my counterpart on the Labor, Health, and Human Services Committee – Chairwoman DeLauro – on that fund, and even more proud to see it used effectively. That is an example of the two parties coming together, working together, to pass a really good idea that benefited this country at a critical time.

That is the cooperative nature that has been the hallmark of our government’s response to the pandemic up to now. The American people expect and deserve nothing less. For that reason, I urge my colleagues to vote no on this bill so that we can work together – and on a better product that will be a responsible use of taxpayer dollars and truly help those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I have full faith that the leaders of the Appropriations Committee, Chairwoman Lowey and Republican Ranking Member Granger, will work together to come up with a bill that we all can support. That confidence is based on experience. I have seen them do it over and over again during my time in Congress. And particularly, in dealing the last four bills where we did work together and manage to craft a bill that not only passed here but passed the United States Senate as well, essentially without dissent.

Mr. Speaker, if we continue down the path with this bill, we know that the Senate will not pick it up and we know the president will not sign it. This is much more about political messaging than effective legislating. I would just urge my colleagues – let’s return to the path that we walked down together in these recent weeks. We bargained, we debated, but we brought products to the floor that we knew could pass through the other chamber and that we knew the president would sign and that we knew would go forward to help the American people.